The City of Williamsburg will soon own two new properties on Capitol Landing Road.
The Williamsburg City Council voted unanimously to approve the purchase of two dated hotels on Capitol Landing Road with the hope of encouraging their future redevelopment.
City Manager Jack Tuttle said the city had agreed with the current owners of the White Lion Motel at 912 Capitol Landing Road and the Country Hearth Inn & Suites at 924 Capitol Landing Road to purchase the two adjoining properties for $610,000 and $835,000, respectively.
The two parcels cover about 9 acres of land, with an easement separating the two. The White Lion property is currently owned by Bryhn Limited Partnership, and was most recently assessed at $501,000. Keene Properties Inc. is the current owner of the Country Hearth parcel, which was most recently assessed at $654,400.
With the purchase, the two hotels will cease operations. A date for the closures has not been announced.
Tuttle said the city’s purchase of the two properties resembled its previous acquisitions of the Lord Paget Hotel on Capitol Landing Road and since-demolished Tioga Motel on Richmond Road.
“The idea is similar … to take underperforming properties, buy them with the intent of returning them back to the private sector for development and redevelopment in a way that is healthy for the overall Williamsburg economy,” Tuttle said.
The Lord Paget parcel is the future site of the Copper Fox Distillery. The city agreed to sell the property to Rick Wasmund, who owns the Sperryville-based distillery, in June 2014 for $600,000. Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited the site in December to announce a $50,000 state grant for the project.
The Tioga property remains vacant and under city control. It remains available for purchase.
Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said the locations of the hotel properties along the Capitol Landing corridor, combined with their adjoining placement, made them ideal candidates for redevelopment.
“We have two contiguous parcels, that, together, can be combined by the city into a larger piece of land that’s on a corridor that previously was economically thriving,” he said. “It’s in an area that we have also agreed, I think throughout the community – here at council, planning commission, [Economic Development Authority] – that the Northeast Triangle is an area that deserves focus on opportunities to stimulate economic redevelopment.”
Tuttle said the city could decide to merge the two properties into a single parcel, but would pursue whatever action was most beneficial to redeveloping the land. Tuttle also said the city was not looking for particular industries or businesses for the location, but would evaluate any interested parties accordingly.
Mayor Clyde Haulman also said the purchase could help in the economic revitalization of the Northeast Triangle.
“What this does is really follow up on the Northeast Triangle commission that spent a lot of time looking at this area, thinking about it,” Haulman said. “Since that took place, the transformations that have occurred, both on Second Street and now on Capitol Landing Road, have been rather phenomenal, given the decades for which there was very little change.”
Freiling also said the removal of underused hotels from the city’s hotel stock could prove beneficial for other hotels in Williamsburg
“One other thing it does is it takes a few more rooms that are admittedly older inventory out of the existing hotel offerings in the city,” Freiling said. “When there’s less inventory available, those [other hotel] operators will hopefully have a better chance of drawing more of the business to their property that’s coming to the city.”
Although he voted for the purchase, Councilman Doug Pons said the effect on other hotels in the city could be limited. Pons is the owner of the Knights Inn at 620 York St.
“It’s a misnomer to think that, when you take inventory out, that it helps the other,” he said. “When this industry starts to compress … the pie gets smaller. I think we learned that with the Hospitality House. We heard from everybody those rooms would be redistributed to other properties – it didn’t happen.”
Councilwoman Judy Knudson reiterated the purchase would have a positive effect on the city’s economy, especially in the Northeast Triangle.
“This sends a powerful message that we’re invested in this part of the city,” Knudson said.
To accommodate the purchase, the City Council will have to approve an amendment to the city’s current budget at its meeting in March.
If the purchase is approved in March, the city will have an inspection period of 45 days for the White Lion property and 90 days for the Country Hearth property. During that period, the city could cancel the deal without penalty.
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